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Interview with Paul Leitner-Wise

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There’s a lot going on at Leitner-Wise Manufacturing. I recently had a good conversation with Paul, their always-busy never-uncontroversial co-owner (along with Vanessa Vy), designer and namesake, about his company, their philosophy, products, and a little about women.

Leitner-Wise Manufacturing has carbine parts out and even a full carbine coming out soon, so I basically just listened to him.


Dave Merrill [DM]: Let’s talk about this new carbine

Paul Leitner-Wise [PLW]: The decision I made was that, you know when the last scare happened, as a small manufacturer we couldn’t get anything. You know, we’d call up the vendors and say, ‘oh we need whatever’ and it was like, ‘come back in a year and maybe we might sell you a few’. Come on guys, this isn’t really how it should be. So around that time I’m thinking, why am I a slave to everyone else? Why am I buying product from everyone else? What’s the point of buying forgings when the forgings are so terrible now anyway? I said stop. I’m going to build this gun the way I want to build it and let’s manufacture every part of the weapon. Including the furniture. Fifty years ago, a gun company would make every part of the gun. There are popular aftermarket companies and there’s nothing wrong with that but now when you walk into a gun store every rifle looks exactly the same.


DM: Yeah that drives me nuts

PLW: The industry has basically latched onto this, what the industry has done is latched onto this and they don’t have to innovate anymore. They just buy aftermarket stock parts off the shelf. Our stock is an aluminum polymer composite. The cheek piece stays in place and the stock moves. We did the pistol grip as well. The other thing the carbine is going to come with that we’ll also release separately are called E-Sights. Emergency sights. I think these will probably be a little controversial. Firstly, why would you want to spend $300 on a set of backup sights that you’re probably never going to use? Very basic, very rudimentary, very robust. The zero is a theoretical 50 yards. You’re going to be able to hit minute of man up to 100m. Wherever you shoot is going to be within a four or five inch area. The beauty of it is, what I’ve found is that if anything is adjustable, people are going to fuck with it. So this is purely a, ‘get the fuck out of a shit scenario’. From my perspective, it’s what they’re made to do. They’ll put up with whatever abuse someone wants to do with them. They fold very flat and they’re inexpensive. They just about disappear into the rail system which is what I want




DM: What else is on the plate?

PLW: We have a steel charging handle that weighs 1.5oz more than the standard charging handle. Steel is the best material for the charging handle and always has been. The other thing we’ve done is made it configurable. You can flip the latch to either side. If you want to set it up as a left-hander you can set it up as a left-hander. It’s steel and it’s nitrided—it’s going to last forever. You won’t be able to break it. It’s just another thing that stops a potential failure.

What we’re doing is developing these technologies, like our heavy duty buffer retainer, and we’re releasing them into the market which lets us move onto the next thing. It’s quite an interesting dynamic because we’re a two year old startup company and the company is what I want to do—I’m not answerable to anybody and I didn’t want to be around people that I didn’t like.

The assholes in this company, they’re my assholes.

The team we have now we have a very strong creative element. We have Vanessa whose basically taken over the branding. She’s done a great job but I’ve also pulled her in on the firearms side. What we’re doing as a dynamic team now is going above and beyond where I’ve gone on my own. It’s very good for the company and good for the industry overall. Vanessa has been working on a line of products for females. The token gesture the industry has done is basically dipped a gun in pink. Why the hell should a woman have to buy a pink gun? Vanessa sat down and started working on is that even if a woman is the same size, there are differences. For example, the hand size is smaller. So let’s look at what we can do ergonomically from that perspective. Then of course let’s see what we can do stylistically without completely turning off your male customer base. Really saying that this is designed for females by females who are actual shooters as opposed to a model at a photos hoot with a gun in her hand. Everybody in this company is an active and accomplished shooter. We’re trying to break the mold here.


DM: So it’s more than just aesthetic changes? I know that if I tried to come home with a pink gun for my wife she would punch me in the face.

PLW: Yeah, these companies just say, ‘let me throw a little pink at you because you’re not going to shoot it anyway and you just want something that looks pretty’ that’s incredibly dismissive. Imagine if men were treated that way. We’d get pissed off pretty quickly so part of what we are doing is reshape the industry. We’re manufacturing everything in house, even the barrels. We cut the rifling. We don’t use hammer forged, we don’t use buttons. It’s cut rifling. Once again, we do as much in-house as possible. We make our dust covers in house. I didn’t want to use the same dust covers that everyone else has done. Manufacturing, not assembly. We’re not a pop up company that sees potential in the market and assembles parts from everyone else. There’s no value in it for us, there’s no value in it for the customers.


DM: I read something about a collaboration?

PLW: Yes, we're working with BCI out of South Bend, Indiana. They’ve been in business since something like 1939. They pour 150 tons of molten metal everyday, run it 24×7, have three shifts and they never shut it down and they have this massive history. The first thing I asked them is why they want to be involved with the AR market anyway and then what’s going to differentiate you? We’ve worked with them what we’ve been able to do is say: let’s build this example of the best direct impingement rifle. Built to the print. Enhanced where necessary, and at the end of the day. We suggested what they do is do an enhanced model, calling it the professional series. It’s a partnership that’s going very well and we’re pleased with how it’s progressing.

Most of the industry doesn’t have drawings, they just the pirated the TDP and it shows.

It’s amazing how many companies there are in this industry that don’t even have the drawings for the parts they purchase. One of the services we provide is that we can supply prints for the parts. It’s an interesting thing because those that can see the value notice it immediately and the ones that don’t, don’t and never will and will be out of business in six months.


DM: Knowing your history and background, did you have to take a rape shower after first putting together a bolt carrier group for a DI gun?

PLW: [laughter] I was asked before things got crazy if I could make parts for some people that wanted them and I said, ‘eh, I have a machine, let’s do that’. It proved to be very successful. So I got out there and said hey, I’m making antique parts now.

We’re not saying that our system is better than anyone else’s or anything like that; just saying this is what we build and how we build it. We have a solid business background that’s allowing us to have the freedom to do exactly that and so far it’s working really well. We're becoming victims of our early success and having to hire new people because demand is increasing exponentially, which is a good thing. I don’t know where we’re going to be in a years time but I do know we’re going to do what it takes to get there.

More to come. In the meantime, you can visit Leitner-Wise Manufacturing here, or on Facebook here. You can follow Paul antics on Instagram here and Twitter here



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